Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Which trees and shrubs have colorful fruit in winter?
Answer:

The drab winter landscape can be brightened with several trees and shrubs with colorful, persistent fruit.

Trees and shrubs with colorful fruit in winter.

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Common Name
Question:
The lower leaves on my African violet have turned yellow and become droopy. What could be wrong?
Answer:

The symptoms suggest the African violet may have root rot.  Root rot symptoms initially develop on the lower leaves.  The lower leaves turn yellow and droop.  As the root rot progresses, affected leaves turn brown and become mushy...

Question:
I recently purchased a ZZ plant. How do I care for it?
Answer:

 The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is a tough, easy to grow houseplant.  It tolerates low levels of light, prolonged dry periods, and neglect.  Plants have few insect or disease problems. Zamioculcas zamiifolia...

Question:
How do you force paperwhite narcissus?
Answer:

Paperwhite narcissus are easy to force indoors.   The bulbs can be forced in clear, shallow bowls (no drainage holes) or pots. 

Potting

When forcing paperwhite narcissus in bowls, partially fill the container with...

Question:
What factors should be considered when purchasing a Christmas tree for the holidays?
Answer:

A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home. Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator. Also, decide on the size (...

Question:
Which shrubs have attractive bark in winter?
Answer:

One of the most beautiful sights in winter is the bright red twigs of redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea) set against a backdrop of newly fallen snow. Native to Iowa, the redosier dogwood grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Several colorful varieties...

Question:
How can I propagate an African violet?
Answer:

African violets are easily propagated by leaf cuttings.  Select a firm, healthy leaf and cut it off with a sharp knife.  Leave 1 to 1½ inches of the leaf stem (petiole) attached to the leaf blade.  Fill a pot with a moistened 50:50...

Question:
How do I care for a ponytail palm?
Answer:

The ponytail palm or elephant-foot tree (Beaucarnea recurvata) is an easy to grow, low maintenance houseplant.  Plant characteristics include a swollen, bulb-like base and long, strap-like leaves which arch out from the stem...

Question:
Are there any bulbs that don't need a cold period when forcing them indoors?
Answer:

Forcing flower bulbs indoors is an excellent way to brighten the cold, gray days of winter.  Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, and other spring-flowering bulbs can be forced indoors.  After planting, spring-flowering bulbs need to...

Question:
How can I determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

The freshness of cut Christmas trees can be determined with a few simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk...

Question:
Can hollies be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

American holly (Ilex opaca) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium) are prized for their glossy, green leaves and brightly colored fruit. Sprigs of both hollies are often used in wreaths, centerpieces, and other Christmas...

Question:
When should I plant an amaryllis bulb in order to have it in bloom at Christmas?
Answer:

An amaryllis bulb usually blooms about 6 to 8 weeks after planting.  Plant the amaryllis bulb in early to mid-November for spectacular blooms at Christmas.  To increase your odds of having an amaryllis in bloom at Christmas, pot up one...

Question:
How do I care for a Norfolk Island Pine?
Answer:

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant.  During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons, and ornaments.  The Norfolk Island pine...

Question:
Can you list some varieties of paperwhite narcissus?
Answer:

Paperwhite narcissus varieties include:

  • ‘Bethlehem’ (creamy white petals, yellow cup, mild musky fragrance)
  • ‘Chinese Sacred Lily’ (white petals, yellow cup, citrus-like fragrance)
  • ‘Galilee’ (pure white flowers,...
Question:
What is the best way to store a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

If you don’t intend to set up the Christmas tree immediately, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location. An unheated garage or shed is often a suitable storage site. (The sun and wind dries out trees stored outdoors.) Put the butt of the tree...

Question:
How do I pot up an amaryllis bulb?
Answer:

When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot which is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plant the bulb in...

Question:
How does one care for a Venus flytrap?
Answer:

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), pitcher plant, and sundew are carnivorous plants that are occasionally grown as houseplants.  Carnivorous plants don’t survive solely by “eating” insects and other prey.  Carnivorous...

Question:
What types of amaryllis are available for forcing indoors?
Answer:

Amaryllis are available in a wide range of colors.  Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bicolors.  Single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties are available. 

Single-...

Question:
Should I add any material to the water to prolong the freshness of my Christmas tree?
Answer:

Do not add molasses, sugar, soft drinks, aspirin, or commercial products to the water. Additives provide no real benefit. The keys to keeping a Christmas tree fresh are to place the tree away from any heat source (fireplace, heater, radiator, etc...

Question:
What should I do with my amaryllis after it is done blooming?
Answer:

Some individuals discard their amaryllis after it is done blooming.  However, it’s possible to save the amaryllis and force it to flower again next year. 

Faded Blooms

Proper cultural practices must be followed to...

Question:
A recently purchased schefflera has begun to drop leaves. Why?
Answer:

Most houseplants, including the schefflera, experience stress when moved from one location to another.  Environmental conditions in the average home are dramatically different (less favorable) than those in a greenhouse.  The less...

Question:
How do I control mealybugs on a houseplant?
Answer:

Mealybugs on houseplants are difficult to control.  Unless the plant is particularly valuable, it’s often best to throw away the infested plant before the insects spread to other houseplants.  The standard remedies for houseplant pests...

Question:
How long can a cut Christmas tree remain in the house?
Answer:

The length of time a cut Christmas tree can remain in the home is determined by the tree species, the freshness of the tree at purchase, and its placement and care in the home. In general, a fresh, well-cared-for Christmas tree should be able to...

Question:
Last summer the leaves on my peach tree were puckered and reddish in color. What was the problem?
Answer:

The symptoms are those of peach leaf curl.  Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease.  The disease is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans.  Infections occur as the peach tree buds begin to swell in spring. 

A...

Question:
My Christmas cactus doesn't bloom well. Why?
Answer:

The Christmas cactus requires proper environmental conditions to flower.  Critical factors in flower initiation are day-length and temperature.  The Christmas cactus is a short-day plant.  Short-day plants grow vegetatively during...

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